What is Aromatherapy?

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: What is Aromatherapy? Do you use it in your practice?

Answer: This is not something that I was trained in, and not something I am very familiar with. Therefore, I do not use it in my practice, and I don’t know any psychologists that do. However, I am sure there is a psychologist somewhere that does use it.

I had to do some research to find information on it. Aromatherapy is one of many types of alternative medicine that uses essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds that are aimed at improving a person’s health or mood. Essential oils are compounds with molecules that tend to change quickly from their solid or liquid state to a gas at room temperature.

Many consider this type of treatment as unscientific and possibly even quackery. However, there are others who claim the therapy is very beneficial.

Aromatherapy is purported to make you feel good, although there is no empirical evidence that it makes you well. Aromatherapy is somewhat of a generic term used for a range of traditional therapies that use essential oils. These may include massaging oils, or any topical application that uses pure, essential oils. The essential oils are either absorbed through the skin or inhaled. No one has yet been able to demonstrate what the actual benefit is. I would venture to say if there is any benefit it is in the relaxation attained through the therapeutic process.

Much like a psychologist’s Clinical Interview, the aromatherapist will ask about the person’s medical history, lifestyle, diet, and aspects of his or her current health. Similar to a Clinical Interview, the initial session usually lasts much longer than the subsequent sessions.

As one can imagine when using chemicals, aromatherapy does sometimes have side effects. Typically, they tend to be very mild and do not last long. Typically, side effects may include nausea, headaches and some allergic reactions. And some oils may interact with other medication, so if you are not sure, you should discuss aromatherapy and the kinds of oils that will be used with your physician.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].